FLORIDA TRIP

OCTOBER-NOVEMBER, 2003

 

October 24, 2003

Iowa City, Iowa

 

Dear Friends and Family:

 

It's getting cold as November approaches so I'm headed south on my trusty Trek bicycle and thought you might enjoy coming along in a "figurative" way. I head out at 9:30 this morning and the plan is to be in Fort Madison tonight and Jacksonville, Illinois tomorrow night. I will head down through the southern part of Illinois, cross the Ohio River at Paducah, Kentucky or Cave-In-Rock, Illinois (there I need to take a ferry).

 

In Kentucky I will ride the Trace between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake and head over to pick up the Natchez Trace southwest of Nashville. The Natchez Trace is a pretty straight shot down to Natchez in the southern half of Mississippi. Then I meander down to Louisiana and start working my way east to the Florida panhandle. Pensacola is probably a 15-day ride, about 1,500 miles away via my route.

 

Cheryl is going to join me in about two weeks. We will relax a bit on the Gulf Coast but also plan to get down to Fort Myers and Naples. If possible I will ride all the way down there but time shortages will probably require me to get in the van for part of the trip. We will be back in Iowa City about November 22.

 

It has been an unusual year with some difficult times so I am looking forward to getting the body and soul back in shape. I hope all of you are as well as can be.

 

John

 

 

 

Day 1

Friday, October 24

Iowa City to Fort Madison

96 Miles

 

Hello Everyone,

It is early Saturday morning here at the Madison Inn Motel. I can't get on line but thought I would type and send this note later.

Yesterday I had a hard but very enjoyable 96-mile ride. Laurie Tulchin joined me for the day and we chose some quiet, smooth roads as we worked our way south. The wind was from the south and it kicked up to over 20 miles per hour at times but we just slowed down and enjoyed the fall scenery a bit longer.

We didn't leave Iowa City until about 10:00 AM so we had to push to get in before dark. At first we expected to arrive at 4:30 PM but kept pushing that time back as the wind got stronger. We just snuck into town before the sun went down about 6:00 PM.

Jim Glasgow also road on his own and made it from Iowa City to Mt. Union on his new titanium framed bike. A friend, Kelvin, picked both of them up here in Fort Madison after we all showered and had supper.

The crops are about 80% harvested and the fall colors are just average right now. It is very pleasant to ride this time of year when the weather holds out for good conditions.

We have a strong cold front heading our way and I will be dressing warmer for the next few days. It will, however, come with northwest winds and that will help blow me through southern Illinois and down into Kentucky.

Today I hope to ride as many as 120 miles and reach Jacksonville, Illinois. That is where I have a room reserved so I got up at 5:00 AM and hope to leave when dawn is here.

Best wishes,

John

 

 

Day 2

Saturday, October 25

Fort Madison, Iowa to Jacksonville, Illinois

115 Miles

 

Hello,

 

It's cold outside and I want to hurry onward so this will be a quick note. Yesterday I rode 115 miles from Fort Madison to Jacksonville. I had a nice tailwind for about 5 hours. Then I caught up with the rain and rode in a light rain for the last 30 miles. The temperature never got above 48 degrees.

I managed to stay dry enough and warm enough but it is a bit dreary riding in cold weather conditions. You feel more vulnerable in case of a breakdown.

I spent a half hour at the Carthage jail and had a personal tour of the cell and room in which Joseph Smith and his brother were murdered by a mob in June of 1844. The Mormons have a nice visitors center there. The bullet holes are still present.

Today I think I will head to Vandalia, Illinois about 100 miles away. I will have a tailwind but the temperature is about 35 degrees right now. I will try to have a couple fall back options if I get too cold.

More later.

John

 

 

Day 3

Sunday, October 26

Jacksonville, Illinois to Vandalia, Illinois

107 Miles

 

Hello Friends and Family,

I am warm, safe and sound here in Vandalia. Today I had a very easy 107-mile ride to the southeast. The wind was behind me the entire day, the roads were smooth, traffic was light and I felt strong all day.

My fear of cold and rain evaporated quickly. I left Jacksonville in bright sunshine at 8:15 AM and though it was only 36 degrees I was plenty warm except fingers and toes and a little pain there just helps keep a person alert.

Sunday traffic is always the best day to ride but I think that the route has just been great anyway. I went through Taylorville, which has a big prison, as does Vandalia. Yesterday Mount Sterling also had a large prison. I think there is an even bigger one down near Marion where I may land tomorrow night. Downstate Illinois is just full of high security prisons.

Vandalia was the second capital of Illinois. Kaskaskia was the first. I went by the old capitol building and will take some photos tomorrow.

This trip I am trying to stay in more economical "mom and pop" motels. The one I picked in Fort Madison was great and the one I have tonight is pretty good. Last night I was in a depressing, old dump. All in all it reminds me that an older property can be a shining example of good care taking or a shabby, depressing place to be. I will think about this a lot when planning on what to do with our own apartment buildings.

The temperature today stayed in the 40's most of the day. The next two days are supposed to be colder but I still have enough clothing with me to be comfortable. A better pair of gloves would be nice but that is about all I am lacking.

I will try to ride down to Carbondale or Marion tomorrow. That would be about 100 miles. I want to see my Miami Dolphins play San Diego tomorrow night.

I'm back on the Subway diet just because that seems to suit me best but I am getting a bit tired of sub sandwiches. Maybe I will plan a real restaurant experience for tomorrow night.

I am quite well and wish you all the best.

John

 

 

Day 4

Monday, October 27

Vandalia, Illinois to Marion, Illinois

102 Miles

 

Hello Friends and Family,

I made it to Marion about 3:30 this afternoon after a hard day. The wind has turned to the south and I rode into a headwind all day. It was about 10 mph so that wasn't bad. The route is still fairly flat. My bigger problem was the narrow road and bad traffic for about 50 miles. I just made a bad guess.

I also missed a turn out in the countryside as I was searching for Salem, Illinois and rode an extra 10 miles to get back on track. The entire day was 102 miles.

I'll be glad to get into Kentucky tomorrow and have some different scenery. I have seen enough of corn and beans for now. Interestingly, the harvest down here is going slower than up north. There are still lots of unharvested corn and some beans are still in the fields.

I would like to do a long ride tomorrow and at this moment I feel good. However, I felt pretty tired at the 50-mile mark today and I may need to ease up some. Then, we may have rain tomorrow. I will just have to see how things turn out.

Fear of cold and rain and shorter hours of sunlight change my approach to riding. At this time of year I try to stay within 20 miles of a warm motel room. I figure I can always endure 20 bad miles.

Motel rooms must be cheap this time of year. I found another decent room for $39.

Well, I'm staying up to see if Brian Griese starts as quarterback for the Dolphins. His father, Bob, was a favorite of mine.

Peace and good wishes to everyone.

John

 

 

Day 5

Tuesday, October 28

Marion, Illinois to Cave in Rock, Illinois

66 Miles

 

Hello,

Today I changed plans and decided to head to Cave in Rock instead of Paducah. This is a tiny place on the Ohio River where a free ferry serves as a bridge. In its early days this town was full of thieves and brothels. Now it is just tiny with about 300 people, a bank and a couple small cafes.

I am staying at the only available lodging, the Cave in Rock motel on the edge of town. The room was just $26 and you can guess the condition. This is the kind of place you drive by knowing you would never want to stay there. It is one small step away from abandonment.

The owner lives in a mobile home on the site and has an unheated office on his patio. He is old and tells me that he is living on borrowed time. I believe him. He looks weak and pasty.

I have no phone so this message will be sent into cyberspace later. I'm just happy to have any room at all.

I rode 66 miles to get here from Marion, It rained every mile. The sun never came out. I was soaked to the skin when I arrived and the temperature never got above 47 degrees but I was still warm enough throughout the day.

I had my first flat 8 miles out and carefully changed it in the rain. A kind young man stopped to help and visit. He works for a Christian radio station in Marion and lives 25 miles away in Harrisburg. He just started cycling so he had some good ideas about my route to Cave in Rock.

I had my second flat about 50 miles out and I was a lot wetter then. I found a flaw in the tire that caused both flats so I had to put on my lightweight spare tire. The spare won't last long on rough roads so I need to see if I can boot the damaged tire or find a bike shop along the route. However, I don't expect to see a bike shop for a couple hundred miles.

Tonight I am trying to dry things out with a very, very small and old in-wall heater. I am also patching tubes and counting my blessings.

The roads today were much better. This is very hilly country and I will be in hilly territory for the next 200+ miles. People are friendly and I had a nice visit at supper with the operator of the ferryboat. He said a couple kayakers had come through just yesterday on their way to New Orleans.

Here dogs run free but since they are used to roaming they don't bother me. A couple of them were eating a dead deer along the road so I really mean it when I say they are running free.

Tomorrow I may have to do another shorter run because motels are so far apart on this route. I will be in Kentucky on the Trace between the two lakes.

I hope to see the sun. Best wishes.

John

 

 

Day 6

Wednesday, October 29

Cave in Rock, Illinois to Grand Rivers, Kentucky

62 Miles

 

Hello,

Tonight I am in the quaint little resort town of Grand Rivers, Kentucky. The season is over here so things are very quiet and I was able to get a very nice room with refrigerator, microwave and lots of space for just $35. A lady at a tourist information spot gave me the hint.

My legs were weary today. I left the Cave in Rock Motel at 7:00 AM and headed to the ferry but after going just a mile I turned around and went back to bed. The fog was so thick even I felt unsafe riding so I waited until 8:30 to try again. It was cold and cloudy for the first half of the day but the roads were very, very free of traffic. It is extremely hilly on these backcountry roads and usually I don't mind that but today I just couldn't get into a rhythm. I may just have a little cumulative fatigue.

The dogs are about as bad as I have ever seen. They are all over the place running free. Today a small pack of three came at me hard as I was reaching the top of one hill. A big black mongrel stayed with me for about 100' with his teeth bared. I am carrying my pepper spray in my coat pocket but I have never used it so I just pedal like hell and hope for the best.

It was windy from the south but I had lots of forestland and hills to knock down the wind so it never bothered much. The fall colors are average but certainly enjoyable.

Four major rivers are near here: the Ohio which I crossed by ferry this morning, the Cumberland to the east that forms Lake Barkley, the Tennessee to the west that forms Kentucky Lake, and the Mississippi just a little further to the west. It is a great recreation area for water sports, hunting, horse raising and even cycling.

I was hoping for a laundry tonight but there was none so the bathtub had to do its usual thing. I decided to eat in since I had a microwave and had two lean cuisine dinners, two yogurts, two bananas, and about 32 ounces of grapefruit juice. I figure it was about 1500 calories and I have one banana and a little juice saved for the food cravings in the middle of the night.

Tires are still a worry. My lightweight spare took a puncture late in the ride. I made it into Grand Rivers and changed it in the room. Now I have remounted my older "booted" tire and I have to hope that it will get me through another 200 miles till I get to Tupelo, the next place with a bike shop.

Today I covered just 62 miles. Tomorrow I plan to pick it up and go about 100 miles to Waverly, Tennessee. About 50 miles out I will stop at the Fort Donelson National Military Park. Ulysses Grant fought a battle there on his way to lay siege to Vicksburg, Mississippi.

I have to mention a little personal history here. I am near Fort Campbell, the military post that is on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. Just 37 years ago this December 1, I was beginning basic training there. I have memories of lots of hardships there all of which I managed to survive at the tender age of 18. One especially awful memory was being on bivouac for a week in the cold January weather and having the flu at the same time. The long march back to camp from the bivouac area at the end of the week and in the middle of the night was one of the worst nights of my life. I guess what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

I think I still have about 150 miles of hills in front of me. If my body is tired I will just take some shorter days. The trick is to find motels in the right spot but I do have good maps from Adventure Cycling that give lots of information. I'll be okay and I am enjoying myself.

Best wishes to all.

John

 

 

Day 7

Thursday, October 30

Grand Rivers, Kentucky to Dover, Tennessee

55 miles

 

Hello Friends and Family,

Tonight I am weary so I have stopped here in Dover, Tennessee after 55 miles. I had some unusual luck in Grand Rivers. I intended to leave town early but after a fine breakfast at a restaurant that plans to shut down for the season after this weekend, I ran into a newly opened bike shop. It wasn't supposed to open until 10:00 AM but the neighboring shop owners told me that the owner often came in early so I waited around and was able to buy two new tires and three tubes and get on the road by 9:00 AM.

Riding the Trace between the lakes was very pleasant. The road surface was good, traffic was light and there was plenty of sunshine. It really is a great place to cycle. I just had a hard time with the steep, never ending hills and the nasty south wind. I was happy to stop in Dover.

Next to Dover is Fort Donelson and it was the site of the first major Union victory of the Civil War. It occurred in February, 1962 when Grant came marching through to take both Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River. I visited the battlefield, visitor center and cemetery but had to hustle back to my motel before darkness. The sun sets so early here that I need to get off the road by 4:00 PM.

The phone system won't handle my computer so this message will have to go out later. I'm going to continue taking some shorter days as I work my way through these hills. This up and down riding is actually more exhausting than crossing the mountain passes in Colorado.

Take care.

John

 

 

Day 8

Friday, October 31

Dover, Tennessee to Middle Tennessee

66 Miles

 

Hello,

Today I continue to be pretty weary so my note may be brief. I was up before 5:00 AM and left Dover at 6:30 as soon as it was light enough. The route to Waverly, Tennessee was completely on backcountry roads that were like steep roller coasters. In the first 42 miles I did 3,500 feet of climbing.

From Waverly I continued south to Interstate 40 and took a motel room for $30. Prices are so much cheaper down here. I rode a total of 66 miles but it felt like a lot more.

The roads continue to be quiet. There is little traffic and after leaving Waverly I had some great road surfaces.

I think that I am out of the worst of the hills. Tomorrow I plan to ride about 85 miles to the town of Waynesboro. There I will spend my last night in Tennessee.

The hunters are out but I don't know what they are hunting right now. Many businesses here are selling guns, hunting stuff and the like. Then there are lots of shops to dress deer meat. I have seen a number of wild turkey.

Dogs continue to be annoying. I'm willing to take on one dog at a time but down here I keep getting chased by two or three at a time. Twice I had to out run them going up hill and the truth is, I couldn't but I was so tired I didn't care if they bit me.

If you wonder if I am having a good time I would have to say that right now: No. I will be happier tomorrow as I start riding the Natchez Trace. It is a sweet road with no dogs and the hills will be easier to handle. At the same time the strong south winds have to slow down soon. I expect that cold front up north will begin giving me a tailwind about Tuesday.

Adjusting to the southern people is always a challenge. I feel really out of place in these small towns. There is sure no way to blend in. But they are all nice and they continue to visit in a friendly way when I get a chance.

Well, early to bed and early to rise.

John

 

 

Day 9

Saturday, November 1

Middle Tennessee to Waynesboro, Tennessee

72 Miles

 

Hello,

Tonight I am in Waynesboro resting and getting ready for a Sunday ride that might take me 120 miles to Tupelo. There are a couple possible stopping points between here and Tupelo but it would be better to go all the way if I can.

Today's ride was 72 miles and it went much better than the previous three days. It was still very hilly and I had a mild headwind but the grades were much easier to handle and I felt better throughout the ride. I still feel a bit fragile so I don't intend to force things. I will leave myself a chance to cut back.

I've been getting up at 5:00 AM and leaving at about 6:30. Tomorrow I plan to move that up so I can depart at 6:00.

I did arrive here at 12:30 PM. I like to get in early with plenty of time to spare. However, there is sure not much to do or see in Waynesboro. This is a pretty ordinary, rural southern town. As I have commented before when traveling through the south, there often is no zoning law apparent and the towns just look disorganized and unkempt. I'm not in love with lots of government but they could use a little more regulation down here just to preserve their own property values.

I took one 30-mile stretch today that was very rural and the dogs were just awful. I had to out run them every mile or so for much of the way and it gets to be draining when you have continual hills in front of you.

This is pretty conservative, religious country. Most of the churches are Christian churches but not of any denominations that we generally see. They all seem to be neighborhood groups.

I ride past dozens and dozens of religious signs like "Jesus is the answer." It makes me wonder if the people who propagate those messages have ever visited the Islamic world. I know that I fear religious fanaticism. I fear it here as much as I fear it in the Middle East.

My goal to lose a few pounds on the trip should be successful. I had intended to abstain from alcohol as part of that plan and I have found that easy to do. This route seems to go only through "dry" communities.

I'm just a tad bit wearier than I would like to be but otherwise I am in good shape and happy to be on this road. Where I end up tomorrow will be an open question.

John

 

 

Day 10

Sunday, November 2

Waynesboro, Tennessee to Tupelo, Mississippi

115 Miles

 

Friends and Family,

I now realize that I have messed up in sending my daily messages and some of you may have not received earlier notes about this trip. I hope this isn't too confusing.

Anyway, I am now in Tupelo, Mississippi and have ridden 850 miles from Iowa City. Yesterday I rode 115 miles leaving Waynesboro, Tennessee at 5:50 AM and arriving here at 2:00 PM. It was a pretty delightful day of riding with temperatures reaching 82 degrees and sunshine all day long. The road surface on the Natchez Trace is coarse in many places and that slows me down but I am out of the Tennessee hills.

Yesterday's ride took me through the northwest corner of Alabama and then down to this Mississippi town of about 30,000. It is the boyhood home of Elvis Presley. Today I intend to ride about 110 miles to Kosciusko, the hometown of Ophra Winfrey.

My keyboard just broke. More later.

John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 11

Monday, November 3

Tupelo, Mississippi to Kosciusko, Mississippi

107 Miles

 

Hello,

My keyboard is still broken.

I made it to Kosciusko at 2:00 today after a delightful ride of 107 miles.

Tomorrow I will ride to the Jackson area.  Later I must tell you about the people I met and the dog I wanted to adopt.

It's sunny and 80 degrees. I am feeling good.

John

 

 

Day 12

Tuesday, November 4

Kosciusko, Mississippi to Jackson, Mississippi

65 Miles

 

Hello,

I had a very, very pleasant 65-mile ride into Jackson.  I intend to stay here until Cheryl arrives late tonight or tomorrow. She is coming down I-55 but she made a wrong turn in the St. Louis area and circled the city an extra time, adding an hour to her trip.

Tomorrow we will drive to the Gulf Coast and chill out for a couple days. Then I will continue the ride heading for South Florida at a cycling pace.

Weather continues to be great. More later when I have a full computer.

Best wishes,

John

 

 

Saturday, November 8

Fort Walton Beach, Florida

 

Hello Friends and Family,

 

Cheryl and I are enjoying an early morning on Okaloosa Beach in a nice room overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The sun is bright and the Gulf is relatively calm with a fine deep blue hue. We like it so well that we are going to stay here another night. During the day we will ride the tandem up to Blue Water Bay, a condo development near Niceville, to explore. There is a relatively new causeway that crosses the bay between here and there and I believe it has a good bike lane.

 

Since leaving Jackson, Mississippi on Wednesday we have spent a long day in New Orleans and then meandered east through Gulf Shores Alabama and Orange Beach. Wednesday night we stayed at the Prince Conti Hotel in the French Quarter of New Orleans. We spent that afternoon just enjoying the French Quarter and Jackson Square. The most important thing we wanted to do there was to tour the Cabildo which is the historic Spanish building in which the transfer of the Louisiana Purchase took place 200 years ago in 1803. Spain owned the territory and in November of 1803 ceded it to France as part of an elaborate deal. Then on December 20, 1803, France transferred it to the United States for the sum or $15,000,000. We were in the room where the paperwork was signed and the ceremony was held. They intend to recreate the event as part of the celebrations next month and hope to get President Bush to attend.

 

We liked staying in the French Quarter and soaking in its unique atmosphere with the street performers, loud music, food smells and the like. The people are very diverse and that is something I especially enjoy. We had a fine Creole dinner Wednesday night and on Thursday morning strolled over to Cafe du Monde for the world's best coffee as told by the late Charles Kuralt.

 

We have been hugging the Gulf Coast as we tour eastward and I have been doing shorter rides. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama was very worthwhile to see. That area is developing at a rapid rate much like Destin, Florida has done over the last decade. They are building high-rise condominium projects all over the place and I expect that baby boomers are buying them up as fast as they are built.

 

The cycling route has been pretty darn good. I began riding again in Alabama and rode down to Dauphin Island just off the coast and southwest of Mobile Bay. We were going to stay on the Island Thursday night but it wasn't very interesting so we took the ferry across Mobile Bay and in the early evening drove through Gulf Shores to stay in Orange Beach. Here the roads are just excellent for cycling. Alabama has rebuilt the highway with 4-6 lanes and a protected bike lane all the way across this coastline. Traffic was light this time of year so it was a pure pleasure to cycle there.

 

On Friday I rode from Orange Beach into Florida and up through Pensacola to Pensacola Beach. Most of the time the traffic was heavy but I had a bike lane. Going across the bridge/causeway to Pensacola Beach was a bit nerve-wracking because the traffic load on US 98 was very high but there is a bike lane. Once you get to Pensacola Beach there is a real fine, safe route to Fort Walton Beach.

 

We will enjoy our 5th floor water view for a while longer and then get out to exercise and tour. I feel guilty not working myself harder but it sure is enjoyable being in this warm climate on the Gulf at this quiet time of year. The weather continues to be excellent. Tomorrow we will continue eastward. I am trying to map out a safe cycling route from here to Fort Myers/Naples via the west side of the state. I know a good route once I get down as far as Brooksville and I know some of the segments between here and there but there is a good portion of the route that I know is difficult or unchartered.

 

I am feeling well and even though I have some tough business decisions looming I am generally able to put them aside for now and enjoy these good moments as they occur.

 

Take care.

 

John

 

 

Sunday night, November 9

Perry, Florida

 

Hello Friends and Family,

 

The last two days have been quite pleasant. I have been able to take some time off the road to reconcile bank accounts and take care of a little other business. Boy, travel is so much easier with High Speed Internet, On Line Banking, LapLink Everywhere and all the other tools that are now available for us. I do like to forget about business while riding but it works well to focus on money and other issues for a few days at a time.

 

Yesterday it was sunny and very windy in the Fort Walton Beach area. We rode the tandem 42 miles going up to Niceville to look at a large real estate development that has interested me in the past. It has some potential for someone who wants a second home in the Florida Panhandle. The traffic was heavier than I expected but we had a bike lane most of the time and did fine.

 

I worked on the books while the Iowa Hawkeyes were playing on ESPN. I'm not an Iowa fan but I do think we have a fine coach. Kirk Ferentz refused to whine or complain as things were going against his team. The players just made too many mistakes but that's what happens in football all the time.

 

We hated to leave our great room overlooking the Gulf but this morning we headed eastward anyway. It was a bit cooler at about 65 degrees and cloudy with a strong 15-20 mph wind from the Northeast. I rode 50 miles to Panama City Beach and had a real fine time. A bridge that had previously been out of service was now fixed and I had a very safe, scenic route most of the way. We went through Seaside which is a town created for the movie Truman starring Jim Carrey about 8 years ago. I worked hard and enjoyed myself.

 

In Panama City Beach I got in the van and we took a long hop forward to Perry, Florida. Route 98 is a likely cycling route for the future but there is a bad area just east of Panama City that lasts for about 15 miles and then there is about 30 miles northeast of Apalachicola that has no shoulder. Otherwise, it is great with fine Gulf vistas and miles of forests and smooth road.

 

This area of the state is less populated and much of it is swampland that will never be developed. Fishing, boating and hunting are regular activities. There are pine forests all over and some logging. Port St. Joe has some huge paper mills.

 

Now, I hope to ride just about every mile down to the Naples area and maybe even down to the Keys. Tomorrow I will take a scenic, backcountry tour to three fishing villages on the coast as I move down to Cedar Key. From there I need to map out a route that keeps me on this west side of the state and near the attractions that Cheryl wants to visit. It will be a challenge working my way around Tampa.

 

Some other goals are to call Chuck Barker on Long Boat Key and maybe have dinner with he and Jo. We also want to ride through Venice and see where my brother sometime stays. Then we will see Frank and Maxine in Fort Myers. Or, who the hell knows, we could end up most anywhere or nowhere. I enjoy the backcountry more than Cheryl does. We are doing some negotiating and compromising.

 

On my birthday this Thursday I am planning for a good hard ride of at least 100 miles and a very fine seafood dinner. Where that will be I can't tell yet.

 

Best wishes,

 

John

 

 

 

 

Monday, November 11

Perry, Florida to Cedar Key, Florida

100 Miles

 

Hello,

 

It was cloudy and windy Monday morning in Perry but by 11:00 AM the clouds were gone and we had a beautiful sunny day. I rode 100 miles to Cedar Key arriving at 4:00 PM. At times I had a hard easterly wind against me but during the last 25 miles I was heading west and coasted into the island.

 

Both Cheryl and I took the back roads and they were great. The only traffic seemed to be deer hunters in their pickups. The road surfaces were usually smooth. I did ride Highway 19/98 for about 20 miles but that was also great because they are improving the road and providing a great paved shoulder. Even on this main highway the traffic is fairly light.

 

The hunters are walking around the edge of the forests using direction finders for some purpose and I can't figure out what that purpose is. I know hunting is going on because a couple of the pickups had deer in the back end. Any ideas?

 

This land is all very low, very undeveloped and much forgotten. At Keaton Beach on the coast they are building their newer homes on piers three stories above ground. The views of the Gulf from there must be good. Steinhatchee was also a very off the beaten path community and very laid back. Fishing is what they do here. This part of Florida is pretty representative of what the entire state would have looked like before the developers, tourists and retirees began reshaping the environment.

 

We were last in Cedar Key about 16 years ago with the three boys. It hasn't changed from what we can tell. It too is a laid back community and only slightly more developed than the other fishing villages. We have a room with a nice Gulf view and the cost was just $55. This is a condo complex and the units are one room suites of about 500 square feet. They have to be pretty old because we are sitting at ground level and you wouldn't be allowed to build at this level today. In a hurricane you would just need to open the doors and let everything go. The first and even the second floors of this complex would be hit hard by the tidal waves. Still the owners are trying to sell units here for about $125,000.

 

There is a long bike path that runs along 19/98 and I might explore some of it today. We will head towards Crystal River, Homosassa Springs and Weeki Wachee. I don't know where we will end up. Again, my body feels great. Regular cycling and good outdoors recreation is so good for mind and body. Cheryl is still hitting all the consignment and second hand shops along the trail. So far she hasn't done too much damage. She has bought some clothing and a silver ladle that caught her eye. As long as she stays away from furniture I'm happy.

 

We do take more and more digital photos because we have learned that even the most unlikely picture often seems valuable after a trip is over. It all helps us remember where we have been and what we have seen. Fortunately, computer hard drives seem to have and endless capacity for storing files.

 

Time to move on. Best wishes.

 

John

 

 

 

Monday, November 18

Naples, Florida

 

Dear Friends and Family,

 

After being off line for a week I thought I would drop a note to let folks know that we are headed for home at a slow pace. During the last week we have gone from quiet Cedar Key to hectic Southwest Florida. We are now in Naples and I will bike about 50 miles north this morning and then we will drive a little in the same direction.

 

From Cedar Key we toured down to Tarpon Springs with stops in Homosassa Springs and Weeki Wachee. That day I never got out of the van and became pretty frustrated. The roads were bad and I intend to avoid that part of Florida for the rest of my life. We did enjoy going to the state preserve to see the manatees and all the birds and Cheryl wanted to visit the sponge docks at Tarpon Springs.

 

We headed inland to get away from the traffic and spent two nights in Lakeland, which was a bit better. There we road the tandem on the Van Fleet trail which runs 29 miles and can be used as a good connector in a north-south trip. On my birthday I did have a real fine ride of 100 miles down the middle of the state and over to Punta Gorda where we like to stay in a Best Western located at the confluence of the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor. It was a great day to ride with a nice tailwind, smooth roads, sunshine and backcountry scenery. Phosphate mining was the major industry and the only folks on the roads were the people working in that industry. Orange groves were also plentiful and they are picking some of them now even though they are still pretty green.

 

But, the main thing was the peace and quiet. I was pretty much alone and that felt so good after dealing with the worse of Florida traffic.

 

Before coming down to Naples we had two very enjoyable days with Frank and Maxine in Fort Myers. Frank and I toured the area looking at real estate investment opportunities. Cheryl and Maxine hit the second hand stores. I know this area pretty well so even though it is congested I can ride safely and enjoyably.

 

Anyway, we do have to get back for business so I hope to ride about 50 miles a day as we head north. The weather in the Midwest is supposed to warm up as the week progresses and I am hoping that the overall temperature stays in the 50's or 60's. It has been about 85 degrees here everyday and that is hard to leave.

 

Best wishes,

 

John

 

Mileage log:

 

October

24

96

 

 

25

115

 

 

26

107

 

 

27

102

 

 

28

66

 

 

29

62

 

 

30

55

 

 

31

66

 

November

1

72

 

 

2

115

 

 

3

107

 

 

4

65

 

 

5

0

 

 

6

30

 

 

7

35

 

 

8

42

Tandem

 

9

50

 

 

10

100

 

 

11

0

 

 

12

20

Tandem

 

13

94

 

 

14

36

 

 

15

38

 

 

16

0

 

 

17

36

 

 

18

48

 

 

19

52

 

 

20

0

 

 

21

0

 

 

22

0

 

 

 

1609

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cycling Data

 

New bike tires mounted 16,861 miles 6-26-2002.

Mileage August 15: 18,480

 

Mileage on bike was about 20,000 January 1, 2003. On May 11, 2003 it was 23,000. New Ultragatorskin tires at this time plus new chain, cassette, tape, & brake pads. As of this time we have 325 miles in 2003 on tandem and the mileage on the new odometer there is 325.

 

On May 22 I had 23,400 miles on the Trek and then rode 300 miles from Council Bluffs to Sioux City to Yankton to Burke, SD. There I accidentally reset the

Trek computer to zero. Now, as of June 5, 2003 I have 626 miles on that computer. As of this June 5 date I count miles for this year:

 

3,700 plus 626 plus 325 plus 200 other for a total of 4,851.

 

Now on June 20 the Trek odometer is at 730 miles and we rode an additional 280 miles on the tandem so mileage is 4,851 plus 104 plus 280 for a total of 5,235.

 

On June 29 the Trek odometer is up to 934 miles so I have now ridden 5,439 miles for the year.

 

Now on July 27 after Colorado trip the Trek odometer reads 1,387, which gives me 453 miles on the Colorado trip plus 60 tandem miles for a yearly total of 5,952.

 

Today is September 7 and I have had a Wisconsin trip of 900 miles and an Illinois trip of about 225 miles. The trek odometer reads 2,709 and total mileage for the year is 7,274.

 

Today is November 25 and the Trek odometer reads 4,868 and I have ridden an additional 100 miles on the tandem so the yearly total is 7,274 + 100 + 2,159=9,533.